Open Data – Session One | ChangeCamp 2010

Two main discussion areas:

1. There is a culture of permission or rather lack of permission within government when it come to open data. While there are datasets and public servants possibly prepared to open some of the data, they are not clear that they have permission to do so and they often do not even know who they need to ask or what process they need to go through to open data.

  • Vancouver is working on a process right now that will inform branches within the city of the process they can go through to release data
  • Vancouver could also make this process available to other municipalities that could potentially use a similar process
  • Potential for automating the process of opening data
  • Providing people within provincial ministries with the contact info of people that need to sign off to release data
  • organizations that have adopted the cost recovery model now rely on that cost recovery for their budget making the leap to open data more difficult. Reminder to business areas that want to make money on their software or their data – what business are you really in? Are you really in the data selling business?
  • On closer examination most government organizations don’t really make much money on selling data – usually costing as much to manage as is made. It’s often better for everyone if the data is just released for free – minimizes unnecessary administration while enabling citizens

2. What can government do to make data more usable once it does open data?

  • Non-proprietary formats, open licensing are important, creating applications that use that data are not so important
  • Rather than spend effort and time building presentation layer tools for open data focus on releasing data in an open format.
  • Releasing data is the one part that other citizens cannot do
  • Citizens can then work with adding to it, creating viewers, apps for it, etc..
  • What about source code? Since code is data, and there are no privacy concerns, code should be opened up as well
  • Some code cannot be opened because it’s not owned by the government
  • One example of why this is valuable: Code created by governments and maintained on contract can be open sourced and this is good because it would foster competition between vendors. Right now, vendors who maintain systems have an advantage because the are the only ones who understand the systems, because they are the only ones with access to the source code. By making it available to all – more vendors could compete thus lowering the cost of maintenance to government bodies

I believe these notes are from the other open data discussion lead by Kevin J.


What data is in most demand?

· Vancouver received little direct input

· Put up geographic/spatial data as a starting point (~50 datasets)

· Precipitated some demand for other spatial dataset; some that weren’t held or available

· Otherwise very little demand and only a few applications built against the data

· Real value might need to be at least partially measured by references and support to reporting


Would be incredibly valuable to for the province/city to release dataset of all datasets.


Is there a linkage between freedom of information requests and Open Data?

· City of Vancouver hasn’t specifically looked at this but is aware of the discussion, but most of the data is non-structured

· Yes, but releasing data may create greater trust which might decrease FoI requests


After crime, executive council and budget data appear to be the most requested datasets based on the experience of other open jurisdictions


Dynamic, real-time data would be of especial interest because of its intrinsic value and clear linkage to potential applications


A further consideration is that not all data can be released without some transformative routines, which require resources


The city and province might be able to answer their own question regarding high value or demand datasets by considering themselves users


Would be useful for local governments to post their developed application on the MISA forum in order to avoid duplicative effort


Privacy may be a barrier to sharing data, but this should not be just assumed but must be tested. And there’s a tremendous amount of information that could be released without any privacy implications


Maybe recreation and community centre data (and especially dynamic data) would be most useful


Perhaps 311 call records might point to other possibilities


RSS feeds assist with pushing out data changes but may not be enough; more proactive or geographically focused solutions might be of greater value


Important to recognize that we’re near the top of the Gartner hype cycle and it’s therefore incumbent on the city and province to build community and use the data themselves to continue innovation and build value

Posted in 2010, Open Data.

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